CIFAR welcomes five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs – CIFAR

Today CIFAR announced five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs who will join the more than 120 Chairs already appointed at Canada’s three National AI Institutes (Amii in Edmonton, Mila in Montréal, and the Vector Institute in Toronto).

Today they announced that I have been appointed a Canada CIFAR AI Chair, CIFAR welcomes five new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs – CIFAR. Here is the U of A Folio story.


Musée d’Orsay’s Van Gogh Exhibition Breaks Historic Attendance Record

The Musée d’Orsay set a record attendance of 793,556 visitors to its exhibition ‘Van Gogh in Auvers-sur-Oise’.

ARTnews has a story about how the Musée d’Orsay’s Van Gogh Exhibition Breaks Historic Attendance Record. The exhibit included a virtual reality component (Virtual Reality – Van Gogh’s Palette) where visitors could put on a headset and interact with the palette of Vincent van Gogh. You can see a 360 degree video of the experience here in French. It takes place in the room of Dr. Gachet who treated van Gogh. It starts with the piano at which his daughter Marguerite posed for a painting. Her character also narrates. Then you zoom in on a 3D rendered version of his palette where you hear about some of the paintings he did in the last 70 days of his life. They emerge from the palette.

It isn’t clear if the success of the show is due to the VR component or just the chance to see originals. We can only experience the 360 video which has limited interactivity. That said, I don’t find the video of the VR experience convincing. It is a creative documentary and it is hard to see how being immersed would make much of a difference. Was it just a gimmick to get more people to come to the show?

Forty years ago Apple debuted a computer that changed our world, for good or ill | Siva Vaidhyanathan | The Guardian

In many ways, the long 21st century began when Apple launched the Macintosh with its ‘1984’ Super Bowl ad

The Guardian has a story about the 40th anniversary of the Apple Macintosh, Forty years ago Apple debuted a computer that changed our world, for good or ill. The famous 1984 Super Bowl Macintosh ad by Ridley Scott was aired on January 22nd, 1984 and announced that on January 24th, the Macintosh would be introduced.

What made the Mac so revolutionary? To be honest, the Mac wasn’t really that innovative. Apple had tried to sell a GUI (Graphical User Interface) computer before in the Lisa, but it was too expensive. The Lisa in turn had be developed using ideas from Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) that were marketed in the Xerox Star of 1981, which was again too expensive to be influential. What the Mac got right was the price making it affordable. And the rest was history.

The author of the Guardian article, Siva Vaidhyanathan, argues that the Mac and later the iPhone hid the realities of their manufacture and innards. This was a common critique of the GUI, that it hid the way the operating system “really” worked, which was shown presumably by MS Dos.

This move to magic through design has blinded us to the real conditions of most people working and living in the world. A gated device is similar to a gated community. Beyond that, the sealed boxes, once they included ubiquitous cameras and location devices and were connected through invisible radio signals, operate as a global surveillance system that Soviet dictators could never have dreamed of. We bought into a world of soft control beyond Orwell’s imagination as well.

Frankly, I think the argument is exaggerated. Consumer products like cars had been hiding their workings under a trunk long before the Macintosh. For that matter the IBM PCs running MS Dos of that time were really not more open. The command line is an interface as much as a graphical one, it is just a different paradigm, a dialogue interface where you order the machine around instead of a desktop where you manipulate files. The argument seems to be one of association – associating the Mac with a broad generalization about capitalism and then hinting that everything after can be blamed on us wanting what Apple offered. What I remember was struggling to learn the commands of an IBM and then being offered a better designed computer. Sometimes better design isn’t a surveillance plot.

The Lives of Literary Characters

The goal of this project is to generate knowledge about the behaviour of literary characters at large scale and make this data openly available to the public. Characters are the scaffolding of great storytelling. This Zooniverse project will allow us to crowdsource data to train AI models to better understand who characters are and what they do within diverse narrative worlds to answer one very big question: why do human beings tell stories?

Today we are going live on Zooinverse with our Citizen Science (crowdsourcing) project, The Lives of Literary Characters. The goal of the project is offer micro-tasks that allow volunteers to annotate literary passages that help annotate training data. It will be interesting to see if we get a decent number of volunteers.

Before setting this up we did some serious reading around the ethics of crowdsourcing as we didn’t want to just exploit readers.


A groundbreaking study shows kids learn better on paper, not screens. Now what?

For ‘deeper reading’ among children aged 10-12, paper trumps screens. What does it mean when schools are going digital?

The title of this Guardian story says it all, A groundbreaking study shows kids learn better on paper, not screens. Now what? The story reports on a study led by Karen Froud at Columbia University titled, Middle-schoolers’ reading and processing depth in response to digital and print media: An N400 study. They found “evidence of differences in brain responses to texts presented in print and digital media, including deeper semantic encoding for print than digital texts.” Paper works better.

John Gabrieli, an MIT neuroscientist who is skeptical about the promises of big tech and its salesmen: “I am impressed how educational technology has had no effect on scale, on reading outcomes, on reading difficulties, on equity issues,”…

OpenAI’s GPT store is already being flooded with AI girlfriend bots

OpenAI’s store rules are already being broken, illustrating that regulating GPTs could be hard to control

From Slashdot I learned about a stroy on how OpenAI’s GPT store is already being flooded with AI girlfriend bots. It isn’t particularly surprising that you can get different girlfriend bots. Nor is it surprising that these would be something you can build in ChatGPT-4. ChatGPT is, afterall, a chatbot. What will be interesting to see is whether these chatbot girlfriends are successful. I would have imagined that men would want pornographic girlfriends and that the market for friends would be more for boyfriends along the lines of what Replika offers.

Column: AI investors say they’ll go broke if they have to pay for copyrighted works. Don’t believe it

AI investors say their work is so important that they should be able to trample copyright law on their pathway to riches. Here’s why you shouldn’t believe them.

Michael Hiltzik has a nice colum about how  AI investors say they’ll go broke if they have to pay for copyrighted works. Don’t believe it. He quotes the venture capital firm investing a lot in AI, Adreessen Horowitz as saying,

The only way AI can fulfill its tremendous potential is if the individuals and businesses currently working to develop these technologies are free to do so lawfully and nimbly.

This is like saying that the businesses of the mafia could fulfill their potential if they were allowed to do so lawfully and nimbly. It also assumes there is tremendous potential, and no pernicious side effects to AI. Do we really know there is positive potential and that it is tremendous?

Hiltzik is quite good on the issue of training on copyrighted material, something playing out as we speak. I suspect that if the courts allow the free use of large content platforms for model training that we will then find these collections of content being sequestered behind license walls that prevent their scraping.

Elon Musk, X and the Problem of Misinformation in an Era Without Trust

Elon Musk thinks a free market of ideas will self-correct. Liberals want to regulate it. Both are missing a deeper predicament.

Jennifer Szalai of the New York Times has a good book review or essay on misinformation and disinformation, Elon Musk, X and the Problem of Misinformation in an Era Without Trust. She writes about how Big Tech (Facebook and Google) benefit from the view that people are being manipulated by social media. It helps sell their services even though there is less evidence of clear and easy manipulation. It is possible that there is an academic business of Big Disinfo that is invested in a story about fake news and its solutions. The problem instead may be a problem of the authority of elites who regularly lie to the US public. This of the lies told after 9/11 to justify the “war on terror”; why should we believe any “elite”?

One answer is to call people to “Do your own research.” Of course that call has its own agenda. It tends to be a call for unsophisticated research through the internet. Of course, everyone should do their own research, but we can’t in most cases. What would it take to really understand vaccines through your own research, as opposed to joining some epistemic community and calling research the parroting of their truisms. With the internet there is an abundance of communities of research to join that will make you feel well-researched. Who needs a PhD? Who needs to actually do original research? Conspiracies like academic communities provide safe haven for networks of ideas.

Meet the Amii Fellows: Geoffrey Rockwell

Learn more about the research and work of Geoffrey Rockwell, one of the latest Fellows to join Amii’s team of world-class researchers. Geoffrey is a professor in both Media Tech Studies and in the philosophy department at the University of Alberta.

The Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) has put up a video interview with me and Alona Fyshe designed to introduce new Fellows (like me.) Dr. Fyshe is one of the Fellows who works on machine learning and natural language processing. The interview is at Meet the Fellows: Geoffrey Rockwell.

How AI Image Generators Make Bias Worse – YouTube

A team at the LIS (London Interdisciplinary School) have created a great short video on the biases of AI image generators. The video covers the issues quickly and is documented with references you can follow for more. I had been looking at how image generators portrayed academics like philosophers, but this reports on research that went much further.

What is also interesting is how this grew out of a LIS undergrad’s first year project. It says something about LIS that they encourage and build on such projects. This got me wondering about the LIS which I had never heard of before. It seems to be a new teaching college in London, UK that is built around interdisciplinary programmes, not departments, that deal with “real-world problems.” It sounds a bit like problem-based learning.

Anyway, it will be interesting to watch how it evolves.